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Detoxification Withdrawal And Their Management

Detoxification – Withdrawal & Their Management

Detoxification is a term we hear very often these days as a health mantra. When it comes to Substance usage, detoxification is a different ball game altogether.

Let us consider the individual who after one drink too much at a social do wakes up with a heavy head the next day. All he does- have a coffee and he is dapper!

A person after a bout of heavy drinking and partying over the weekend wakes up with a hangover- heavy head, dizziness, acidity etc. – he drinks lemonade, pops an antacid and a pain killer and is ready to face the day.

A regular drinker- for health reasons decides to take a sabbatical from drinks-stays off it for a month or two and switches to a fruit or soup diet for a few days and is fit as a fiddle.

Here we dis scenarios of withdrawals experienced by “social consumers” of alcohol, experiences of which many of you might have had, and the “detoxification “methods that have been indulged in that worked.



Withdrawal in Alcohol Addiction

But an individual who is addicted to alcohol – multiply the experience of the above withdrawals or hangovers from 10 -100 percent depending on the intensity, frequency and duration of the unmanageability caused due to usage. Seen anyone with a drinking problem claiming to see weird images or seeing people and faces that are not there jumping around or laughs or cries and seems to act like a clown or thinks there are ants crawling under his skin?

The kind of withdrawals the alcoholic experiences is called The Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome- a set of symptoms seen when an individual reduces or stops alcohol consumption after prolonged and excessive intake.

The reason for the syndrome is the hyper excitable state of the mind and the central nervous system. The withdrawals are both Physical and Psychological.

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Symptoms of Withdrawal

The severity of the symptoms vary from mild sleep disturbances, mild anxiety, lack of appetite to severe physical withdrawal symptoms like severe Tremors, excessive sweating, diarrhea, headache, nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate(tachycardia), seizures or convulsions, body aches, etc. and psychological withdrawals like craving for the substance, Insomnia, Visual and auditory hallucinations, severe anxiety and panic attacks, confusion, depression, etc.

In very severe cases Delirium tremens -DTs can occur – comprising of uncontrollable tremors, confusion, visual hallucinations, severe anxiety, seizures, high blood pressure, tachycardia, nightmares, disorientation, paranoia, fever, etc. fatal without appropriate medical treatment.

PAWS ( Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) can occur in many alcoholics wherein the withdrawal symptoms can linger or occur for at least a year which can mimic hangovers with headaches, nausea, disorientation, insomnia, etc.

Withdrawal in Drug Addiction

Withdrawal symptoms from Drugs are also similar to the above with substances like Cocaine etc. having more psychological withdrawals than physical.

All the above withdrawal symptoms are so painful that the person addicted to alcohol or drugs resorts to drink or drug used to prevent or abort their occurrence. Hence, we see that ultimately the addict uses as using is no more to attain “pleasure” but to keep “pain” at bay.


This involves various interventions essential for helping the addict tide over the phase of withdrawals. Detoxification is done under medical supervision in a hospital so that medical intervention is at hand in case of emergencies.

Steps to Detox:

  • Evaluation – Blood & other investigations are done to assess the physical parameters of the afflicted individual so that the extent of damage caused can be assessed. Psychological evaluation is done to assess the effect on the mind. During the course of detox underlying ailments like Diabetes, Hypertension, and Cirrhosis, etc. can come to the fore. Likewise, any underlying psychiatric ailments can surface (Dual Diagnosis- an underlying psychiatric ailment with Addiction to Substance) for which detailed psychiatric evaluation is also conducted.
  • Stabilization- here the patient is helped with IV fluids and mild sedatives or medications to reduce the severity of the withdrawals and prevent life-threatening symptoms from developing.
  • Enabling Rehabilitation – readying the patient for the actual rehabilitation process – in house treatment programs in which various Counseling therapies and other alternative therapies like Meditation are utilized to enable the Afflicted individual to see and live a life beyond Substance usage.
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“Detoxification is thus a Bridge connecting those afflicted by the Disease of Addiction to a Rehabilitation process that takes them beyond the illusory world of Addiction to the reality of Life”

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